Leslie Kawaguchi “I always try to get my students to see the connection between things past and the conditions and issues that exist today.”

In her first semester at SMC, Leslie Kawaguchi is rapidly adapting and finding the campus much to her liking. “I’m actually brand new!” she says. “I’m feeling really good about being here and finding my way.” But adapting to new circumstances is something she’s had a lifetime of experience in.

“My father was in the U.S. Army and so we travelled a lot,” she remembers. “I was born in San Francisco and then we were stationed in Germany, Indiana, and Hawaii.” It’s perhaps the constantly changing scenery of her childhood that gave Leslie the passionate determination to study the origins and history of the world’s people. “My area of expertise is in immigration and ethnicity,” she says. “I actually did my doctoral thesis on the German immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia.”

In her class on history of the Asian-Americans, Leslie has discovered “a real broad cross-section of Asian-Americans living in America. I have students who are fourth generation Japanese-American, several who are immigrants themselves and a lot of international students in general. And I find the mixture exciting.”

Leslie says the craft of teaching is “something I’ll always be working on improving. But I feel strongly about what I teach and I try to treat history as a process of critical thinking. I want my students to see the connection between their feelings about the world and how they have been shaped by events in the past.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.